A year ago today a ground-breaking initiative was launched to enable ordinary people to directly ask the European Commission to come up with new European legislation on topics that are important to them. Since then the citizens' initiative has been used to raise issues ranging from protecting the environment to mobile phones rates and stopping experiments on animals. We talked to MEPs Zita Gurmai and Alain Lamassoure, who are in charge of this at the EP, to assess the first year.
Fourteen initiatives have been introduced so far. Some are about every day issues, such as the initiative for a monthly flat-rate for mobile phones in Europe or the one to set a speed limit of 30km per hour in urban areas. Others are more ambitious in scope, for example by calling for an end to all EU climate action until China, India and the US have signed a climate agreement.
Mr Lamassoure, a French member of the EPP group, was pleased with what he observed the first year: "I welcome the fact that most of the citizens' initiatives registered by the Commission have been proposed by ordinary people rather than by civil society groups. It shows that the sense of belonging to a European public space is growing."
However Zita Gurmai, a Hungarian member of the S&D group, said there was still room for improvement: "Collecting signatures should be made a lot easier, both for the organisers and the citizens. For this, we need a user-friendly software and platform, an affordable and safe way to maintain websites. It will be also important in the long run that member states coordinate what kind of data they request from citizens to check the validity of signatures."
- initiative has to be on something the EU has a right to legislate on, for example agriculture, the internal market or the environment
- There will need to be a committee composed of at least seven EU citizens from at least seven different member states
- One million signatures will have to be collected from at least seven EU countries in less than a year. A minimum number of signatures has to be reached in each country, e.g. 74,250 in Germany or 4,500 in Malta
- Once the signatures have been collected, a hearing including the European Commission takes place in the EP
- The Commission then has three months to decide if it will propose legislation. If it doesn't, it will have to explain why.